Exploring the perception of risk and safety in online dating spaces for the LGBTQ community.
This project was funded through Birmingham City University’s ‘Small Development Grant’ which funds small, pilot projects. Violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people has received significant academic attention in recent years. This has mainly been under hate crime scholarship, which has expanded recently to explore the ways in which violence is facilitated in online spaces. Existing research has mainly explored the ways hate speech is constructed, enabled and encouraged in online spaces. This research seeks to develop our understanding of the ways in which victimisation offline can be facilitated through engagement with online applications.Grindr is the most commonly used apps for gay and bisexual men, and men that have sex with men. It is a geosocial app that allows individuals to engage with those closest to them geographically. There have been a number of incidents reported of individuals who use the app being lured to meet strangers in public spaces where they have then experienced violence, threats and robbery. Perhaps most famously, Stephen Port was found guilty of murder in 2016 of 5 men whom he had met through Grindr.
The aims of this research are to:
- Explore the perceptions of risk and safety among geosocial app users, specifically users of Grindr;
- Identify whether mainstream media reporting of victimisation facilitated through geosocial apps impacts users perceptions of safety and risk;
- Detect mechanisms employed by users to minimise risk and maximise safety.
- Inform technological developments that relate to user safety.
A mixed method approach was adopted. Initially, online surveys were distributed to people who identify as gay, bisexual or men that have sex with men (MSM), including minoritized genders. The online survey will establish whether participants use geosocial apps and if not whether perceptions of risk influence this decision. For participants who do use geosocial apps, a number of questions will be asked to establish whether they identify any risks associated with using these apps. Additionally, the survey will establish how aware participants are of incidents reported in mainstream media that relate to victimisation facilitated through the use of geosocial apps. If they are aware, it will also establish whether this impacts the way they interact with the app and whether it impacts their perception of safety and risk.
The results from the online survey will then inform the construction of the interview schedule. The interviews will be semi-structured to allow for freedom of discussion within the interviews, which will be initially based around trends found within the quantitative data collected through the online surveys. The qualitative data collected will provide a deeper, qualitative understanding of how individuals engage with the notions of safety and risk in relation to geosocial apps.